The Story: Escape From Slavery

Although slaves had no way to publicly or legally complain about unfair treatment and abuse, they developed other methods of resistance. For example, slaves could slow down, pretend to be sick, or sabotage their work as a way to object against long hours of backbreaking labor. Slaves could also steal small amounts of food as a method of protesting their inadequate diet and providing for their families. A more dramatic, but very rare, demonstration against slavery was to organize small groups to commit crimes against slaveholders, such as arson or murder. All of these forms of resistance, big and small, were intended to chip away at the authority of slave owners. Slaves had no other options to assert their rights, such as legal protection or public protest, and these acts of defiance provided an outlet for the rage and despair they felt at the loss of their freedom.

"The supply of food given out to the slaves was one peck of corn a week, or some equivalent, and nothing besides. They must grind their own corn, after the work of the day was performed, at a mill which stood on the plantation. We had to eat our coarse bread without meat, or butter, or milk. Severe labor alone gave us an appetite for our scanty and unpalatable fare. Many of the slaves were so hungry after their excessive toil, that they were compelled to steal food in addition to this allowance."


- Thomas H. Jones, New Hanover, N.C.